Doing it all at the same time: doing and following live panel discussions – in person, on C-SPAN and on line; tv and radio interviews on mics, and phone, iphone and SKYPE; writing articles for .coms and print, tweets, facebooks and faxes. That’s the schedule of a journalist with a hot story and that happened to me last Thursday and Friday during the 50th anniversary of “The Law That Changed the Face of America” – the Hart-Cellar Immigration and Nationality Act and the release of my new book with that title, This multitasking has become the MO of the “multi-platform” journalist in DC following breaking news. You can see wired-up journalists sitting on floors and propped against walls in crowded hearing rooms and Congressional corridors, as they juggle a lap top or ipad on their knees (or both), or sit at a desk with larger screen laptop, eyes darting between their iphone latest tweets and facebook submissions, their multi-screen articles in progress and editing videos and photos waiting to be submerged in articles or sent separately.
I got into this craziness last week. During a few hours on Friday, I was preparing my notes for a panel I was to be on taken from the panel I was on Thursday at the Press Club. I was following another panel online; setting up a SKYPE interview for later; trying to fax a contract for a major article run with Investors Business Daily, and thinking about what I had said on an intense and unexpected ten minute interview on POTUS an XM radio program that I had been on with less than five minutes notice at 7:40 a.m. that morning (the “unexpected” part was my bad; I missed an email from my publicist the day before setting it up. Luckily I picked up when the producer called me on my cell phone and asked if I was ready. We just did the interview live two minutes later. People who heard it later said that “I was solid”).
To be a journalist these days you HAVE to highly multi-tasked. Multi-visual and multi-audio helps too; being able to listen to two or more conversations at my lunch table and the one next to me, while watching TV and having CSPAN in the background is one of my journalist news gathering skills (probably I got the training from being a simultaneous interpreter at one time in my career, or in my teens decoding Morse Code – one part of the brain listens to what is going on, while another translates what was just heard). Last week the pope’s comments were broadcast simultaneously in Spanish and the English translation – I was used to that multitask hearing; but I wonder how many others are.
The new feature today is all the technology. I work often with four screens live – iphone, lap top, desk top and TV – in the press club Truman lounge where increasingly many wired up reporters work, there are four TVs going on, all on different channels, that one constantly checks out. Are we becoming slightly ?? schizophrenic here? Can normal people make sense of our multi-sourced multi-distribution work? It’s a buzz to do. But caffeinated coffee is absolutely imperative! Does it show?